After a long career in the restaurant business, I have now been teaching about it for four years. I owe much of what I share with my students to Chef Maxine Borcherding. In addition to being my absolute reference for just about everything, she is also a certified sommelier.
She has a great business (Taste and Compare Academy), where she educates people on wine, spirits, and food; puts wine dinners together, does wine service training, and organizes wine trips to places like the Rhone Valley, France. But enough of this mutual admiration society, I want to share an example that she shared with me, that I often use for my students.
How much crab is in that?
Let’s say you have crab cakes on your menu, and the recipe calls for two ounces of crab per cake. However, you have cooks who like to be generous with the crab, and therefore add an additional mere half ounce to each cake–you are officially now headed for trouble.
Do the math
Let’s do the math together. If you sell 100 orders of crab cakes a day, and crab is $16 a pound, and there are two cakes on each plate, you are spending an extra $100 dollars a day! If you are open 360 days a year that adds up to $36,000!!!!! Okay, let’s say you sell only half of that. That’s still $18,000. Maybe you only sell 25 orders a day–That is $9000. Profit that was never realized.
Think about every item on your menu, and how you could be losing profit on every single dish. You need to be sure to control your portions. This is done by coming up with a standard recipe for everything on the menu, and then training your staff to prepare food to those standards.
Look at your menu and come up with standard recipes for each and every thing on it. That should include everything on the plate. Are you putting a wedge of lemon on that fish entrée? Is there a sprig of parsley or watercress on it? You must account for everything going out to the customer. Once you know how much it costs to create a dish, you have a starting point for how much you should charge for that dish. Of course there are other factors to consider: Labor, rent, other costs, etc. However, this is where you should look first.
None of this works if you are not training the staff. Training, monitoring, retraining. These are all essential to your success.